KPBS AIRDATE: November 04, 2005
It’s a wild week for onstage women. They’re going to war, birthing monsters and having a heckuva time getting a decent date. There’s nothin’ like a dame – in “A Piece of My Heart,” “Bad Dates” and “The Frankenstein Project.”
Halloween was the perfect night for Sledgehammer to launch “The Frankenstein Project v.2.0.” The original incarnation emerged from the crypt in 1999, as a work in progress. Director Kirsten Brandt adapted the piece from Mary Shelley’s world-famous 1818 Gothic novel. The familiar story concerns a monster created by a young student. Longing for sympathy and shunned by society, the creature ultimately turns evil and takes deadly revenge on the student for trying to play God. In Brandt’s version, the student is a female, and so is her fiendish creation. Looming over them, reciting from the original text, is a very pregnant Mary Shelley. The three Marys make an unholy trinity that underscores the recurring religion vs. science debates. Brandt has a great deal on her mind, from face transplants to stem cell research, birth and motherhood, dreams, death, resurrection, rape, abandonment and the human soul. It’s a lot to cram into 100 minutes. But the direction is precise, the performances meticulous, and the stage pictures are often gorgeous, thanks to the set, light and video design of David Lee Cuthbert. There’s also a deliciously creepy soundscape by Jeff Mockus. You may not understand everything that flies by with eerie volubility, but the play will certainly unnerve and disturb you.
“A Piece of My Heart” is unsettling, too. But this discomfort is born of fact, not fiction. Shirley Lauro based her 1991 play on the Keith Walker book of interviews with 26 female Vietnam veterans. Some 15,000 women volunteered to serve in Southeast Asia during the war, but amazingly, the exact number isn’t known. Six women’s stories, interwoven monologues, crisply directed, excellently performed, give us a gut-wrenching glimpse of the journey from ambition to horror to disillusionment to healing. In the Veteran’s Museum and Memorial Center, the history surrounds us, and as the death toll mounts in another aimless war, the play and production – by Mo’olelo Theatre — are more relevant than ever.
Now, for a little comic relief, there’s “Bad Dates” at the San Diego Repertory Theatre. Haley has a shoe-fetish, a job with the Romanian mob, and a shortage of decent men. Written by Theresa Rebeck in 2003, the one-woman comedy is one of this season’s ten most produced plays in professional theaters nationwide. Audiences are howling – bilingually. The Rep just initiated a program of concurrent Spanish translation for three performances a week. The play breaks no new ground, but DeAnna Driscoll is such marvelous company, you’d spend an evening with her any time… in any language.
These women are no shrinking violets; they’re steel magnolias.
©2005 Patté Productions Inc.